The modern Premier League seems like a war of resources. However, while some clubs have plenty of cash to splash around on the world’s most famous players, others have to make do with less. Brighton is a well-run club, usually punching above its weight. A lot of this has to do with manager Graham Potter’s tactics and squad choices. Today we’re going to look at how the Seagulls are consistently managing to beat the odds in 2021.
Graham Potter’s career
As a player, Graham Potter enjoyed a promising career. He was capped for England’s U21 squad and played for a number of relatively important English teams like Southampton and Stoke City. After hanging up his boots, Potter went back to school and, next took a number of behind-the-scenes jobs in football.
His management career began in 2010 as the coach of Östersund in Sweden. Good results both nationally and in Europe recommended Potter for the Premier League. After managing Swansea for a season, in 2019 he was given the reigns of Brighton. His coaching style has been described as unconventional and progressive, two traits associated with Brighton’s modern vision.
Potter’s playing style and philosophy
What Graham Potter achieved during his stint in Sweden caught the imagination of football fans across the world. The success the team enjoyed, many argued, was due to the young manager embracing innovative, experimental methods. Some of this fearlessness can also be found in the way that Brighton plays.
Potter is not a manager set in his ways. It is true that he is open to spice things up. However, there are traits seen throughout most of Brighton’s games. The manager instructs his player to build from the back patiently. He often relies on a 4-2-3-1 formation. Still, he will change the style based on opponents and the individual strengths of some of his players.
The tactical fluidity that the manager endorses means that players are constantly challenged. This, and the fact that Potter is considered to have very good man-management skills, make the Englishman an ideal fit for clubs looking to outperform stronger opponents and prepare for the team’s future.
Brighton as a club is run under similar principles. A sensible transfer policy has existed for the past several years. This has allowed Potter to slowly mold a team according to his vision. The team may have been unlucky in terms of results during last season. Their two victories in three games managed this year are, however, a better indicator of the team’s ability.
Brighton’s tactics and formations under Graham Potter
Potter is known to use 4-2-3-1 formation, but variations of this are frequent. In the opening game of the 2021/22 season, for example, Brighton lined up using a 4-4-1-1 formation against newly-promoted Watford. The team looked to attack patiently. The attacks were carried, mostly, on the right flank. Here, Leandro Trossard tended to drift from the central area to assist Pascal Groß, the team’s top performer this season.
Forward Neal Maupay also to tuck deeper position. He will often look to quickly move the ball back towards Adam Lallana or Alexis Macallister. With Macallister also switching from the right flank into a central position, it is up to wing-back Solly March to work the left flank.
Yves Bissouma remains, perhaps, Brighton’s most important player. The number eight acts both as a defensive pivot and as a deep playmaker. The player will often drop deep to receive the ball from the defenders. Wing-backs will advance asymmetrically, normally, to encourage passing lanes for Bissouma. When the ball is passed forward, to Mapupay, for example, players will be encouraged to make forward runs to assist the player on the ball.
Brighton’s buildup and attack
In terms of their attacking play, Potter’s teams have always played a modern and brave style of football. Whenever possible, Brighton, especially in 2021, will attack patiently from deep. Players like Bissouma will look to drop into half-spaces. This allows the team to play in between the opponents’ lines of pressing.
When Brighton is faced with a similarly matched opponent, one who likes to sit deep, the team’s central defenders will pass between them. The goal is to draw the opposition towards them. At this stage, players are encouraged to make quick, direct passes. These passes target either the central forward or a player making a run down the flank. Brighton’s defense. Judging by Brighton’s xG (expected goal ratio) during the past couple of seasons, the attacking buildup is one of Potter’s greatest achievements.
Brighton is a well-organized team. Potter, however, understands the limitations of his squad. Aggressive, quick pressing is not always encouraged, unlike some of the other clubs in the Premier League. Instead, the Seagulls will press either according to certain triggers or immediately after possession has been lost.
When defending, typically, Brighton will back into a 5-4-1 formation. The team will adopt a shape where they are playing with very little width. The goal is to force the opposition into making risky passes that Brighton and Hove’s players can then recycle.
Brighton is one of the teams towards many other English clubs looks on in envy. The organization is, by most accounts, managed well. The team, under Graham Potter, is also viewed as a club that is consistently performing beyond expectations.
The 2021/22 season has started well for the Seagulls. This, however, judging by last season’s stats is no surprise. Brighton & Hove Albion was unlikely to be battling relegation last time around. This season, should things remain the same, Potter’s team looks set to be rewarded in the way that they deserve.
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